Rabbinic student retreat
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Panim. Holy wow.

What an amazing weekend.

I want to begin by listing the seminaries which cosponsored the event with Panim, and which sent delegates to the retreat. I know I mentioned this in my last post, but honestly, it's kind of amazing just to read this list of names and to realize how many different ways there are of being Jewish and of approaching the rabbinate. We came from Hebrew Union College (New York, Cincinatti, and Los Angeles branches), the Jewish Theological Seminary, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Rabbinical School at Hebrew College, Academy for Jewish Religion, the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, Aleph, Drisha, and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School. We spent three days learning together, talking together, and most remarkably praying together.

The retreat was terrific on at least three levels. The programming, first of all -- tzedek (social justice) work hasn't been a focus of my student rabbinate to date, but this weekend was galvanizing for me in that regard. Rabbis Or Rose, Jill Jacobs, and Sid Schwartz offered terrific sessions and workshops, and everything we learned from them felt real, relevant, and powerful. I'm also awed by the range and depth of work that my colleagues are doing, in realms ranging from the American south (hurricane Katrina aftermath) to refugee work in southeast Asia, prison chaplaincy to the fight for a living wage.

Secondly, the community. The major reason I went on the retreat was to meet students from other rabbinic schools, and to represent Aleph in this broader group. I wasn't sure what to expect. How would students from the big denominational seminaries feel about those of us in the transdenominational programs? What preconceptions would we each have about the others' forms of Judaism? How would we relate? Honestly, I was a little nervous. But my fears were unfounded. The leaders of the retreat created a safe container for the experience, and people opened up in remarkable ways. I came away truly feeling that everyone present is a dear teacher, colleague, and friend.

And thirdly, the davenen. We met twice daily on weekdays, and thrice on Shabbat, for prayer -- led by pairs or groups of students from various seminaries, always matched across denominational lines. (For instance, I co-led a service with a Conservative rabbinic student.) I'm not sure I had quite realized, going in, how radical an idea it was to pray together in this way. Different students have wildly different needs, expectations, and comfort zones. This merits a post of its own. Honestly, each of the three aspects I've just mentioned merits a post of its own.

I'll try to offer some reflections on these various aspects of the retreat over the next few days. For now, I'm glad to be home safe and sound (while it's merely raining down at Isabella Freedman / Elat Chayyim, it's pouring sleet here at my house) and am spending a quiet afternoon curled up with my cat, thinking about the weekend that was, and feeling tremendously grateful to be doing the work I'm blessed to do.

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